It was late afternoon, and I could barely get my body out of bed. In fact, I had been in bed most of the last few days––or was it weeks? Even with all that rest, my legs were still too weak to stand up.
It wasn’t that I lacked the desire to get up or that my limbs couldn’t function. I just didn’t have the cellular energy to power up my muscles. I couldn’t do anything except lie flat. Even that was exhausting.
This state of sheer debilitation was not new to me. And it hadn’t been going on for days or weeks. It had been a decade.
On this day, in the spring of 2003, I pushed past the utter exhaustion, even knowing that this exertion would cause my condition to worsen. I was determined. After all, I was being honored with a Women Who Dared award. It was being presented by the Jewish Women’s Archive and Hadassah Boston for my women’s empowerment work. Neither of the organizations honoring me, nor the 300 dinner guests at the award ceremony, knew I did most of that work from my bed.
Should I tell them? I wondered. I had written about my illness in my speech. But would I have the guts to reveal my personal struggle in such a public setting?
The only thing the attendees knew about me was what they could read in the event program: I was a Jewish woman dedicated to social change, in short, to tikkun olam (“repair of the world”). My activism focused on a book I’d written, celebrating the bold and courageous acts of women and girls. I then started a global open mic movement where women from all backgrounds gathered to share their own experiences, telling true tales of daring deeds, and celebrating the chutzpah they needed to fight back against abuse and sexual assault.
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